Howdy Folks, and welcome back! This time we’re talking about a store I don’t know that well. Jumbo Markets is a grocery store that only comes up on occasion in Houston retail history. They were a very small chain, so most people who remember them, either lived or spent time around one of their stores. Only making it to six stores over a time period of about 13 years, Jumbo had lots of missteps in Houston. The average “store life” for the chain was only about 5 years, except for their “Flagship” 10250 Westheimer location that stayed open continuously, as it also functioned as company HQ. I don’t really have too much on the history of Jumbo, except that it seems to have been part of a family owned affair, which may have very well had roots in California. I have found some documentation showing high level members sharing common names between the two companies. There is also the existence of a shared logo between the two. While I’m not completely positive, it appears that these two companies may have been related. Of the six locations Jumbo operated only four were actually in Houston with the other two located nearby in Alvin and West Columbia. Today we’re taking a look at a former Jumbo location at 9750 Fondren Road, located in the Fondrenwood shopping center, the store was built in 1979 for Jumbo.
While the majority of Houston Jumbo stores didn’t last long, this was one of the few exceptions. Opening in early 1980, this location would make it 8 years until the breakup of Jumbo Markets. In mid-1988, this store along with all other Jumbo locations were quietly sold off. They would be allowed to retain the Jumbo name at least through the end of the year. With some companies like Continental Finer Foods (don’t think I’ve mentioned them on the blog yet!) simply renaming the locations they purchased “Jumbo Foods”. The Fondrenwood location would be purchased by an independent grocer, Sam Khader who would spend $100,000 on renovations, renaming the store Food World. The grand opening was made to be an event giving away free goods on the first two days, and selling champagne at 1 Cent/Bottle. The store would also be adjusted to better fit the neighborhood. For example, increasing the number of Kosher items for sale. Unfortunately, these changes were not enough and Mr. Khader exited the picture about a year after buying the former Jumbo, handing over the store to his supplier. (Interestingly, while Mr. Khader didn’t have luck with this store, he has more recently found success as part of the team behind Dimassi’s.) While it’s unclear exactly what killed the store, at the time grocery competition in Houston was notoriously fierce. While, the location did have the advantage of being the closest direct grocer to a good number of people, so did a number of nearby chains.
Within only a year of purchasing the former Jumbo and less than 6 months of operating it as Food World, the store was handed over to supplier Fleming Foods. Who was presumably the supplier for both Food World, and likely both incarnations of Jumbo. During this time, it was not unusual for suppliers to take on stores for a few months while they searched for another independent to sell the store to for a discounted price, usually connected to a supply contract. It wasn’t a bad idea, especially when the alternative is simply letting your customer die off. However, with this location, it looks like Fleming was unable to ever find a buyer. It did receive a name change though to Braes Foods, as it was passed through a couple of Minimax Holding companies, which Fleming owned. In early 1992, Fleming would hold an auction for the remaining items in the store. Ending the grocery chapter of this building for good. The store wouldn’t sit vacant for long, however, with TJ Maxx moving from their Braesgate location (in the former Weingarten across the street) to the former Jumbo. TJ Maxx would operate out of this store until 2005, when it was closed by TJ Maxx along with their Jones Road location.
For the next 10 years the store would end up sitting vacant, until Texas Thrift moved in 2015. As of 2021, Texas Thrift is still operating out of the building, and despite its proximity to the bayou, as far as I know has remained flood free. Most of the TJ Maxx theming is still in place, giving this overall nice thrift store a fun flair you wouldn’t predict from the outside. Although lots of the store, including and grocery store charm left on the interior was deleted during the TJ Maxx remodel, also loosing some original grocery store space to subdivision by TJ Maxx. I would recommend that anyone interested in thrifting go check this place out, not just for the retail aspects, it was actually a delightful little thrift shop. Funnily, I didn’t even know of the TJ Maxx connection prior to going in, I was expecting a grocery store!